Educators weigh in on campus site

June 02, 1999|By BRUCE HAMILTON

The location of a local University System of Maryland campus may be up in the air, but some education leaders have firm opinions about where it should be.

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Hagerstown Community College President Norman P. Shea and Hagerstown Business College President W. Christopher Motz agree the best place is at Friendship Technology Park about five miles southwest of Hagerstown.

"In my opinion, designing a new building has far more pluses than renovating an old one," said Shea.

The 20-acre site on Downsville Pike would be better than the Baldwin House Complex in downtown Hagerstown because it has more space, better access and more parking, Shea said.

"That amount of land would be conducive to future development," he said. "Hopefully it's going to grow and develop as Washington County grows and develops."


Shea said he understands why Hagerstown Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II and former Mayor Steven T. Sager want the campus downtown.

He said, however, HCC and Frostburg State University will cooperate to maintain a presence there.

"I think, in some ways, both can happen," Shea said.

Motz said students at the business college enjoy the lawns and open space of the campus environment.

"They would appreciate the same amenities at a four-year school," he said.

A steering committee decided Feb. 1 that the System's local campus should be on land donated by Allegheny Power in its Friendship Technology Park. The committee endorsed a plan to erect a $10 million to $15 million building there.

Hagerstown City Council's May 18 offer of the Baldwin House Complex sparked debate.

Bruchey and Sager say renovating the 600,000-square-foot building at 32-36 W. Washington St. would be $2 million cheaper than the cost of constructing a building.

The Washington County Commissioners reconvened the committee. City representatives are scheduled to present the case for the Baldwin site at a public meeting in Frostburg's Hagerstown Center June 16.

It will then be up to the committee to endorse one of the sites. Commissioners President Gregory L. Snook said he would prefer the decision be made that night.

University System Director of Planning Mark Beck will deliver the recommendation to the System Board of Regents.

"We were very excited to have the presence of the university in our community. We would hate to see politics delay or lose it for all of us," Washington County Board of Education President Edwin Hayes said.

Washington County Schools Superintendent Herman G. Bartlett said he has no preference.

Through a spokesman, Frostburg President Catherine R. Gira said she had not visited the Baldwin site and could not comment on a preferred choice.

Critics of the downtown site say parking and access are problems there, but some former Frostburg students didn't agree.

Andrew James Bakner, a Waynesboro, Pa., resident who graduated in May, said it was a convenient location.

Bakner said parking and security weren't problems.

"If I had to spend another four years I'd have no problem going there," he said.

Another recent graduate, Robert Lee Simmers Jr., agreed. "It was extremely convenient for me," he said.

"Parking was a really big problem," said graduate Victoria Britner, of Williamsport. Although the city was supposed to issue parking passes, that never happened, she said.

Britner said she felt safer at HCC, and always left downtown night classes with a group of people. She once discovered teenagers sitting on her car and it was common to encounter strange people downtown, she said.

"Parking was a real issue," said graduate Tracy Barss, of Frederick, Md. Although she parked in a garage, others couldn't afford to do so on a daily basis, she said.

Police patrolled frequently but some students had problems with bums and kids harassing them, she said. Barss said the 20-acre site is a better choice, but access downtown was not a problem.

"I was able to get in and get out," she said.

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